Rick Gerring’s initiative to help emergency services quickly reach the site of a shark attack is becoming a reality, 18 months after his brother Ben was killed by a great white while surfing off a beach in Mandurah, south of Perth.
Coastal councils are being offered $25,000 to take part in the new system designed to avoid possible delays when emergency services are having difficulty locating the exact location of an attack.
The Western Australian Government is providing the funds to set up signs on at-risk beaches with Beach Emergency Numbers (BEN), which include specific details for each location.
Mr Gerring put forward the idea after his brother’s death in June 2016, and earlier this year the City of Mandurah agreed to take part.
He said the BEN system would allow emergency responders to know exactly where the attack had occurred.
“Minutes and seconds count in any life-threatening situation,” he said.
“So the more we can help emergency services get there to help the patient, it’s only going to benefit everyone.”
The signage is based on a similar system already used on the eastern seaboard, but which Mr Gerring believed could also be used inland for emergency situations.
He said his brother would be “stoked” the BEN signage was being installed.
“Very proud it’s called after Ben. His legacy will live on in that way, and he’s going to be looking after people on the beaches and hopefully saving some lives at the same time,” he said.
Councils urged to join scheme
Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said the locations of the individually coded signs would be recorded with emergency services.
Members of the public calling for help could then easily relay their location.
“They’d quote the information on the sign,” Mr Kelly said.
“It will have an individual number, plus some details about street addresses and nearest cross street, and those things.
“Together that will allow emergency services to get to that specific location in the shortest possible time.”
Western Australian Local Government Association president Lynne Craigie urged councils to join the scheme.
“I think this is a great initiative the State Government’s shown, and I’m sure that most local governments are going to take it up,” Ms Craigie said.
“We think that even if it can save one life it’s a huge incentive and we’d be really supportive of it across the whole sector.”